Book Review: Creating Character Arcs

Title: Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland
Medium: Book
Genre: Nonfiction (writing, how to)

Initial Thoughts: As always when I read something by K.M. Weiland, I love the break down of how she looks at each part of what she’s talking about. In this case, it is Creating Character Arcs. There’s a great explanation of how character arc, structure, and theme all play an integral and inter-twining part of any story. So it really sets things up as you read and gives you something to pay attention to, to think on as you read. It takes something that can seem quite complicated and breaks it down into something not only quite manageable but a lot of fun.

Favorite Part: Once again, I love the examples. Just having examples is always helpful, but using the same examples throughout for each part is a great way to really get to SEE how each part plays into the whole and gives some concrete ideas of how it might look in your own story. This, combined with the clear explanations make this an invaluable resource on how to write proper character arcs.

Overall Impression: I really enjoyed this read and am finding it super helpful in my own planning. In fact, I am using the questions listed in this book for my own characters as I outline my current WIPs. It is organized in a clear, concise way that builds on each section. THere’s also a great FAQ about character arcs in general and a nice little section on character arcs in series which is helpful since I seem incapable of writing just one-off pieces… Go figure XD

Recommendation: I would recommend this for anyone that has ever had any questions on how to write a good character arc or who may need help with writing characters in general. This is also great for someone that may just not know how to set up a character arc. If you’ve read her Outlining and Structuring novels already, this is a must-read!

To check out this and others, go here! https://www.kmweiland.com/ For further reading, she also has a terrific writing blog here: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/

Outlining in Scrivener

Ok, so today I’m going to show you a bit how I do some of my outlining in Scrivener. I’ve fallen in love with this program. I won’t extol the virtues of it because I can go on about it for a while. I also won’t go through how to use step by step because there are already quite a few great resources out there that explain things a lot better than I can, so when I talk of things, I will be assuming you know the basics of Scrivener, so apologies if you don’t! But I know it can be helpful to see the process for other writers.
I will say that my process is ever evolving and it can be different for each project I work on. But I’ve found a layout for myself that works quite well. Now, the amount of time I spent looking at examples of how other writers set things up is pretty ridiculous actually, but I find I am a person that does best when I have something to go off of. I tried using some of Scrivener’s templates and while they are helpful, they didn’t quite fulfill all of my needs. So I have begun to create my own templates. I actually have templates for novels, one for blog posts, and one where I keep a collection of story ideas that don’t have their own Scrivener project yet.
draft-binder The layout for novels is ever changing, as I said, but I’ll show you the layout I am using for my current work-in-progress. Because I can’t seem to do just one off novels, I originally set up a blank document and set it up where I have the first level as Book 1. Each Book is divided up into chapters, then of course scenes/sequels.  That’s the “manuscript” part of Scrivener in the binder. Then, it gets a little—complicated, I guess you could say XD I do like to outline, though I don’t do as much as others I have found. I tend to go right in the middle. I like a solid idea of where I’m going, but I don’t want to plan so much that all of the fun is gone for me. This is an entirely personal preference, of course.
plot-binderAfter the Manuscript or Draft section, I set up one called Plot. There, I keep a number of things. The story idea (if I did one) which is a template I set up so I can just fill it out for each project goes there, as does the Premise that contains several things including: premise, theme, dramatic question, as well as subplots. I also put my “What ifs” here as well, which is something that I learned from KM Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel. Highly recommended to check out! I also keep what I call a Plot Plan here, which is marking down a few things like: the inciting and key events, theme, the hook, the first plot point, the first pinch point, the midpoint, the second pinch point, the third plot point, the Climax, and the resolution. It lets me see a sort of road map, just something to keep me on track as I go. Again, this is from Structuring your Novel, another read I highly recommend!
Last but not least, I keep a separate folder in the Plot part for Scenes. This is where I use another template to record the ideas for scenes I already have. Now, for those that really love to outline everything, you can sit down and just record all the planned scenes you have, detail their goal, their conflict, all of that. I don’t detail out every scene because things often change a bit as I go, so I mostly just detail out scenes that I know I want to hit. So starting out, I’d do those my plot plan and any others I have off the top of my head. I may or may not detail more as I think of them during the project or I may just write them out and see how it goes.
character-binderThe next bit is Characters. I really enjoy getting to know my characters both during the Outlining phase and of course, writing phase. I have several things that go here. Each character gets their own folder. In that folder are a few things: they get a checklist which is a list of about 60 questions that I try to answer for as many characters as possible. Many characters also get a Character Questionnaire that involves their arc, and then lastly, I do a bit of a questionnaire that outlines their character arc based on structure. It seems like a lot, but I do enjoy this process because it helps me to see where certain parts of the character arc fits within the novel.
world-notes-binderAfter that, there’s the Settings folder, which is where I keep track of well, the setting. I put any world notes here, keep track of locations, cities, etc. I even might keep house layouts here (yes, yes I actually do this XD). In the Research folder below that, I often will keep what I call inspiration pictures of my characters, maps, research notes and the like.
This is a quick explanation of the beginning of my outlining process and how I set up my Scrivener projects. I am going to pause on this and do a review of K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs for next week! But I will pick up on this the following week, so if there’s anything you want to see, let me know in the comments below or contact me via the form.

A Slightly Dampening Realization

So, this week, I had planned on delving more into my writing process, but I think I am going to delay that one for a week or so. I’ve been talking with some friends of mine about Works in Progress (hereby known as WIPs). I had said I was a bit scared to go back and see what all I have to work on (I’ve been collecting ideas for far too long XD). Well, last night, I did some cursory diving into some of my writing folders to see just what I had.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I REALLY need to just- finish something. I have about 15 novels just from past Nano projects (starting in 2013), plus at least another 15 novels from other projects, some of which have been kicking around since junior high, or even before. Of those 30 novels (and that’s a low estimate, honestly since some of the other projects might need to be split up into more), there is only one completed first draft.
As I came to this realization, I made a few decisions. The first one is: I need to finish something, not just the first draft, but all the way through. The second one is- I have no idea how to do that. I tend to go into fairly intense cycles when it comes to working on projects where I will be almost manic when it comes to working on a project. I’ll devote large chunks of time, focus, etc on working on it for days, weeks, even months. But eventually, that peters out. And then I will lose focus, lose motivation. I need to find a way to keep plugging on a project. I have attempted to slow down a bit, do little parts at a time, hoping I don’t burn myself out, but that only works for so long and then the same thing happens: I lose that motivation.
Right now, I plan on trying to pick a project, a new one and go from first step (outlining), then to the first draft, and even to editing. I have never managed to do it. The reason I am telling my readers this is because I am truly curious to know any little secrets you may have for your own writing, any advice. I have been writing since kindergarten and still, I can’t seem to stick with a project long enough to finish it. I hope to change that and again, any advice (including links to blogs, books, just personal stories) would be greatly appreciated!
So feel free to reply in the comments or through the contact form. Next week, I will tell you a bit about my writing process, where I start and I will be focusing on my WriteMind planner!